Tonight’s Actual Wisdom brings you a little bit of international wisdom with the words of Reyes Llopis-García, who discusses Finding Nemo and all of the awkward Spanish slip-ups. And makes you feel really good with the last question.

She’s glowing with wisdom

1. Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer.

Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955) does it for me in six: “I am I plus my circumstance” (Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia).

2. Your claim to fame (what makes you special?):

Anyone seen Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo? If you know who Dory is, then you’ve met my alter ego. I might easily be the most forgetful person in history. My inability to recall what day it is, who was in group A or team B when assigning points during a game in class, who said what and why, or even what I was saying five seconds ago is ridiculous. So I don’t know what makes me special… I most likely forgot!

3. What’s your most valuable or unexpected college experience?

My four years at Universidad Nebrija in Madrid (Spain) were awesome, I lived everything to the fullest and also worked myself crazy to get the best grades I could (and did, too!). There was, however, one experience that tops them all: my Junior Year abroad in Kalamazoo College, Michigan. This experience changed me forever: not only did I discover my true calling when I stepped into a class as a teaching assistant in a language lab, but I also met people who made a difference in my life, who taught me so much and made me see life from so many perspectives I never knew existed! This happened more than a decade ago, and I still look back on that year with the biggest smile. Plus I met some of the best people in my life thanks to that year! I think studying abroad is one of the most enriching experiences you can live as a college student.

4. What’s the craziest student excuse/extension story you’ve heard?

Being a language instructor, I think that language misuses are even more fun. Like one student, who once said to me that she couldn’t come to class because she had food poisoning from having eaten a “tenderness steak” the night before. She of course meant beef (ternEra), but used tenderness (ternUra) instead. Or the one who said it took him forever to learn how to tie his condoms properly because he was so clumsy. He actually meant coRdones (shoelaces), but ended up mixing it up with coNdones (colloquial for condoms). Or the Engineering student who, during a very serious language evaluation said in a very concentrated manner that he wanted to build roads, canals -like the one in Panama-, and DOORS (surely he meant harbors -puertos- but said puertAs -doors- instead). It’s hard to keep up a straight face when these happen!

5. Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? 

Well, given that I am a Lecturer in Language, I cannot get tenured at Columbia (yet!), so that leaves me with no way out of this time-honored question (Great. Or not)… but I still can’t answer it! Who would set me up with such a hard choice, anyway? If it were wine vs. oral sex, Netflix vs. oral sex… even water vs. oral sex!!!
But CHEESE!?!? Come on! Can I at least try to get out of this question by playing the “smart linguists card” and saying that Linguistics makes everything oral sex for us?

6. Back in my day…(i.e What has changed since you’ve been at Columbia?)

This is my fourth year at Columbia, so I can’t really talk much about dramatic changes that have affected how I perceive the University. However, what I can say has changed in a hopefully more positive way is… me. In these seven semesters, I have had the privilege to teach to amazing individuals. Young men and women who not only have a serious commitment to their academic excellence, but to their personal growth as responsible members of society as well. I’ve known students who were involved in student associations, clubs, organizations and projects that seek to have a positive impact in their communities and their surroundings, be them near or far away. And they also strive to learn Spanish not only because they have a Language Requirement, but because they believe that being proficient in it will help them advance in their professional careers and reach out to more people. Seeing all of this has inspired me to research more, work more, do more, care more and aspire to be a better instructor who will meet their needs and interests.

7. Three things you learned at Columbia:

a) Despite being exceptionally smart, it is virtually impossible to get Columbia/Barnard students to unlearn that “UN OTRO” does not exist in Spanish. Not even by telling them that the chance of it appearing in their exams is 100%!
b) Beware of going to nearby bars in the campus vicinity! As an instructor, you might actually get to learn the unwanted information of how many of your students are in possession of a fake ID!
c) Columbia/Barnard students have superhuman powers: they will complete colossal amounts of homework, projects, essays, presentations… and still show up to class (almost always on time) with a smile, all ready to work hard and enjoy themselves while learning.

8. What’s your advice to students/academics/the human race in general?

All students who have been in my classes since 2009 know I always say this, and now I get the cool chance to share with all those reading the Bwog (thanks! BTW): You study at one of the most impressive academic institutions, and that is because you are EXCELLENT in your academic performance. You are also young and live in New York City!! Study and work as hard as you can, but don’t forget to find the balance to go out there and explore this City, get to know people and places, expand your cultural and personal horizons, take advantage of all this unique setting has to offer. And yes, party, too! After all, your college years only happen once and you will make memories to cherish forever: be all that you can be! Some Latin words of wisdom for you: carpe diem! Seize the day!

Reyes Llopis-Garcia via